Reminder: Labor Day – Fly our flag

From the Washington Post: Things you should know about Labor Day

Labor Day is the perfect day to explain to kids complaining about going back to school just how much worse things could be for them.

In fact, they once were: Kids were forced into back-breaking jobs day and night in mines, textiles, glass factories, canneries and other places where children don’t belong. Labor activists eventually ended child labor — and won better working conditions for adult workers, including the eight-hour work day.

Today, though, few schools teach in depth about the labor movement and I doubt many kids know what the holiday is intended to honor.

To help you use this holiday as a learning experience for your children — which is exactly what I knew you were planning to do today — here are some facts and figures and history kindly assembled by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.

read the entire essay here

26 thoughts on “Reminder: Labor Day – Fly our flag

  1. Yes, Anthony, and another reminder. Our freedom from grinding labor, poverty and starvation is only possible thanks to inventors, labor saving devices and ENERGY.

    The Labor Day holiday was first proposed in 1882. As a reminder of just how much less back breaking labor we now have to do:
    1850 – About 75-90 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn (2-1/2 acres) with walking plow, harrow, and hand planting….

    [for us baby boomers]
    1945 – 10-14 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2 acres) of corn with tractor, 3-bottom plow, 10-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, 4-row planters and cultivators, and 2-row picker

    1987 – 2-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (1-1/8 acres) of corn with tractor, 5-bottom plow, 25-foot tandem disk, planter, 25-foot herbicide applicator, 15-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks

    http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfarm1.htm

    So give thanks to all those inventors who have made our lives longer, healthier, and much more pleasant.

  2. Trouble is those who never liked working hard but profiting from the money from those who really work hard. :-)
    Their last bigger invention: To buy carbon credits for nothing and sell permits to polluters (carbon shares) to keep polluting….as it is said: “Leisure mother of ingenuity”
    Their smaller recent invention : “plastic money”. (Or the science of counterfeiting money without going to jail).

  3. Er, what about your international band of followers who do not have a Labour day? Maybe we can have a Bud or two instead. I would suggest a BBQ but autumn seems to have arrived early once again in Wales. Have a good one!

  4. Tchah.

    Kids today don’t know they’re born.

    When I were a lad I had to do a double shift : up chimneys during t’ day and down mines at night.

    I were paid a ha’penny a day and given a lump of anthracite for me Christmas bonus.

    We didn’t ‘ave fancy notions like Trade Unions or pension schemes in them days – although we did have dental…..

  5. The numbers by occupation look very odd to me. It says there are:
    7.2 million Teachers; 1.7 million Chief executives; 2.1 million Janitors and building cleaners and 1.0 million Computer software engineers
    whilst only:
    773,000 Hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists; 351,000 Chefs and headcooks and 243,000 Pharmacists.
    AND there is no number for Climate scientists – oh woe.

  6. Thank you for the reminder, Anthony. I will show it to the resident 17 year old who is supposed to be preparing for the ACT so he will do well, and go to a great college and get a good job like his older brother. So far my sales job has been lacking. Life has been too easy around here.

  7. “Er, what about your international band of followers who do not have a Labour day?”

    It’s called May Day. We had it already. In May.

    And I didn’t fly any bits of cloth.

  8. Please Anthony, can I be excused flying the flag — it would be the wrong one and it would be a very un-English thing to do anyway.

    By a curious coincidence I’ve become interested in the topic of child labour. After a prolonged b attle we have just proved that a footpath does not exist just outside my back door, and in the process of research I found that Sir Thomas Fowell-Buxton was one of the great movers of the change in the law. (He’s the pleasant looking man in glasses standing just behind Elizabeth Fry on the current five pound note.) Both his families, the Fowells and the Buxtons, came from our next door villages and the big estate over the hill was owned at the time by a mill owner who fought tooth and nail to keep children as young as eight working in his factories.

    JF
    Anyone interested can find a radio programme about the footpath, and my attempt to open a footpath through the Houses of Parliament to teach them better manners, on iPM, BBC radio 4.

  9. Gareth Phillips says:
    September 6, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Er, what about your international band of followers who do not have a Labour day?
    _____________________________
    Why, raise a glass and drink a toast to all the inventors who made our lives easier.

    12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury- written in Latin in 1159.
    “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”

    Isaac Newton in a letter 1676:

    “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

    So a toast to the giants of another age.

  10. Julian Flood says:
    September 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    “Both his families, the Fowells and the Buxtons, came from our next door villages and the big estate over the hill was owned at the time by a mill owner who fought tooth and nail to keep children as young as eight working in his factories.

    JF

    Ah. Brings back genetic memories. My family goes back for over a thousand years to a small pile of rubble near Coventry named Whitnash. Where for centuries, my ancestors, brutal mill owners and petty tyrants all, lost many a tooth or nail obtaining the youngest workers as could be laid hands upon. Why they did this is a bit of a mystery, but not altogether a complete surprise given the times. To this day I am want to bark orders at innocent children should I happen upon one in the mall or what have you. It is to be expected though, given the centuries of careful, selected inbreeding in my family. I am told the cemetery in Whitnash has but 5 names on the tombstones; including a Gumby. Hasn’t affected me in the least though. Aside from the child labour thingy…

    Sincerely,

    Formerly; Brigadier General, Sir Oliver St John Mollusk. Mrs. (Deceased)

    Now; Supreme Emperor Kag. Ruler of Earth.

  11. As with all other days of commemoration and such, (including Xmas ) it is just another paid long weekend, or the opportunity to make double or triple time $$, or get a whatever on sale. It means nothing beyond that to the vast majority.

  12. From: Gareth Phillips on September 6, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Er, what about your international band of followers who do not have a Labour day? Maybe we can have a Bud or two instead. (…)

    Well, I’m an American, and I’d prefer a Guinness. But then I rarely drink, and when I drink I want to enjoy a drink, not get drunk. ☺

  13. What’s this 8 hour work day? Offshore we always do 12 hours. At least. (Except offshore Norway – 8 hour work days there.)

  14. I always kid people that when we have our Labour Day, that it’s not a public holiday, but the day when everybody works without pay.

  15. Off topic:

    The Beeb online carries a piece about a new study demonstrating that armed conflicts in Africa are NOT linked to climate change: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11204686.
    The claim is often repeated: desertification, drought and floods caused by climate change lead to people trying to expel a neighbouring ethnic group, thus leading to armed conflict as a direct consequence of climate change.
    The correlation, actually, appears to be zero.

  16. As a free enterprise American, I have never understood Labor Day, other than a free three day weekend to enjoy the fruits of our earlier labor, especially by people who are able to leasure at the price of another person’s toil.

  17. Er, what about your international band of followers who do not have a Labour day?

    Well, actually in most of the world Labor Day is May 1st, in remembrance of workers hanged in Chicago in 1886 for going into a strike demanding a reduction of the 12-hour workday. Not a pretty remembrance in the US, so you guys just chose another day.

  18. The article referenced is a good one, but very American-centric. The invention of the eight-hour working day and the 40-hour working week were first legislated in New Zealand. Sadly, both are now distant memories. New Zealand women were the first to be enfranchised nationally and this small country was once regarded internationally as a ‘social laboratory’.
    Fly your flag and be proud, but remember America is a part of the world, not the centre of it.

    REPLY: Passing progressive legislation is easy when you’ve got a country made up of a few towns and some sheep, and the population is generally made up of rabble rousers who were kicked out of and transported from their homelands. As of 1840, when NZ claims to have passed the 8 hour workday, the non-Maori population of the country was barely over 2,000 persons. The US population was over 17 million in over 30 states at that time, a body politic that was a mite harder to move all at once in one direction.

  19. Reply to a reply: I had no intention of causing offence, and have no idea who the grump was who replied to my earlier post, but when one commits oneself to the written word, it’s always an excellent start to check facts.
    New Zealand is often confused with Australia, which began as an English penal colony, at Botany Bay on Sydney Harbour.
    New Zealand is over three thousand miles from Australia and was never a penal colony, was not ‘settled by transported rabble-rousers’ but by a mix of peoples from Europe and the British Isles, many of them with suficient funds to purchase very large tracts of land from either the Colonial Government or the infamous New Zealand Company and bring what was known as the ‘mechanic’ class – tradesmen, many from the agricultural, mining and manufacturing industries. Many of the settlers were political and/or religious dissidents, such as a large group of Hugenots who had originally fled from Catholic France to Denmark and to outlying Dutch provinces, and thence to NZ. A large number of the settlers were Scottish, well educated and adventurous – the largest section of any alphabetically arranged telephone directory there is still the section for ‘Mac’ and kilted pipe bands and Caledonian Societies flourish.
    Formal education has always been valued highly since the first missionaries arrived and the NZ system of universal education is older than that of England. NZ as an independant paliamentary democracy predates many modern European nations, including Italy, and New Zealanders have a long history of ground-brealing innovation and invention. Lord Rutherford, the atomic physicist is an early example.
    To describe colonial NZ as being populated by sheep, rabble rousers and criminals is plain ignorance.
    The notion that size trumps all, which the respondent appears to cherish, ranks right up there with ‘my dad is bigger’n your dad!’ and the inference that the Maori population was/is irrelevant is plain silly. The notion that history can be re-written to suit individual tastes is equally silly.

  20. I sometimes have to pinch myself to remember that I’m the son of the son of an Irish boy that shoveled coal in a Pennsylvania coal mine. Labor Day was yesterday and I forgot the boy and the day was anything but the end of Summer.

  21. I note that the reduction in hours of work needed for sustenance is the result of increases in human productivity enabled by individual freedom with defense and justice, which labour unions have a rather mixed record on. (Such as pushing black-skinned railway conductors out, preventing females from becoming airline pilots after World War II, and advocating protectionism to keep manufacturing jobs under their control (overlooking that trade is a two-way street).)

    Children worked for the same reason they do today in less progressive societies around the world – out of necessity. (Actually children still work today in societies like the US – check into family farms and small retail businesses. But the need here is not as crucial today.)

    Africa was mentioned in this thread – much child labour there, recall the runner in the US Olympic team in 1998, who spent his days looking after the family cows out on the range, until one of the usual ideological/tribal groups invaded their village and killed their father. The boys out herding had been told by their parents or others to get further away with the cattle. But they were captured to be slave soldiers, fortunately escaping and finding a refugee camp. They were educated in it, and some were brought to the US including that runner and a boy who became an elevator operator in the Smith Tower in Seattle WA.

    Until those who initiate force are firmly stopped children and parents will live in poverty, without the food, shelter and medical care that people here take for granted.

    Andrew Bernstein has written a couple of great books on the social system proven to feed, shelter and foster humans, unfortunately using the vague term “capitalism” but actually broad and complete books. They are “Capitalism Unbound” and the thicker more academic “Capitalist Manifesto”.

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